The housing market is white hot right now. Some houses are selling in less than a day…and then there’s your house…which has been on the market for months and is still not selling. You’re desperate to know – what are your options if you can’t sell your house?? Lucky for you, there may still be a light at the end of this tunnel!
Here Are Your Options If You Can’t Sell Your House
This post contains affiliate links.
You might think that you only have one or two options to actually get some interest in your house at this point. You’re feeling desperate, but you don’t have to go there yet. Based on my research, you’ve actually got at least 11 options if you can’t sell your house right now! Let’s hit them one by one and get your house sold!!
1) Make Cheap (But Noticeable) Improvements
The absolute cheapest, but most impactful thing you can do with your house is paint it! Inside, outside, it doesn’t matter. If you’ve got paint chipping off or if it’s just an ugly color, it’s time to buy some new buckets of paint and freshen things up! To paint the outside of your house, it’ll probably cost you about $700 to do it yourself (unless you have a mammoth house that is…).
If you simply need to update a few interior rooms with a more neutral, lighter color (ie. a light grey is your best bet), it’s only going to cost you $75-$100.
Oh, and if you have old ugly wood-grain cabinets, consider painting them a light color as well! This is a fantastic cheap alternative to buying new cabinets and appliances. You’ll be amazed at what a little paint can do!
The other hugely impactful thing you can do is touch up your landscaping.
- Because it’s the first thing people see when they drive past your house. If your property doesn’t have even a hint of curb appeal, people will probably cross it off their list immediately. The inside of your house might be immaculate, but they’ll never know because they just kept driving.
- Second, if they actually do decide to brave your home, guess where they spend the most time while viewing it? ….On the front step while their realtor is trying to figure out how to get inside. If your landscape is nearly eating your house, or if it’s non-existent, it’s time to invest a couple hundred bucks for mulch and some reasonably sized, colorful plants.
Related: Home Improvement Ideas on a Budget
2) Shop For a New Realtor
Not all realtors are created equal. DO NOT choose your brother-in-law because he could really use the money. You’re looking for options if you can’t sell your house here! If he can’t get the job done as well as other realtors you know, don’t give him the job!
My wife and I had to go through this when we were looking to buy a flip house. Our realtor was nearing retirement and did not have any fire in his belly whatsoever. He liked showing us houses, and that was about it. He didn’t network and he didn’t suggest alternative options to what we were seeing online. Basically, he just wanted us to buy a house so he could collect his money .
We fired him.
And that’s okay. It happens. And in fact, that’s the way the business works! If you don’t gel with your realtor and you’re not loving their advice, it’s pretty common to drop them and move on to someone else. They will not be offended (even your brother-in-law will likely understand).
Instead of just going with the next realtor that blew our way, we interviewed a few of them and went with the one that truly buys and sells houses for a living (and the one that we felt would do the best job for us).
If your realtor isn’t coming to you with solutions on how to sell your house (and I’m guessing they probably aren’t since you’re reading this article!), it’s time to hunt for someone else. Once you find “the one” and they start working on your house sale like they should, I bet you’ll suddenly find your buyer.
3) Take the House Off the Market to List Later
When a house stays on the market for 100 days or more, people start thinking to themselves, “Hmmm, there must be something wrong with this house,” and they just completely take it off their radar, just like that!
Whether you plan to make upgrades to your home, switch realtors, or do absolutely nothing…it might be worth taking it off the market for a few months to reset the clock.
4) Drop the Price
In this crazy-hot housing market, if your house isn’t selling, it typically boils down to two reasons:
- Either your house has something seriously wrong with it (like a sunken roof or a bad foundation), or
- Your asking price is just too high
What are all the houses in your neighborhood selling for? What are their major features (# of bedrooms, bathrooms, square feet, overall appearance, etc.)? …And what are you listing your house for with your major features??
Let’s say houses in your neighborhood are selling for between $175,000 and $200,000, have 3 bedrooms and two baths, and are approximately 1,700 square feet.
If your house has 5 bedrooms and 3 baths with 2,500 square feet, you officially own one of the biggest houses on the block…which makes it a tough sell. Unfortunately for you, people don’t look for $275,000 houses in $175,000 neighborhoods. You’re going to need to drop the price until you get into sniffing distance of $200,000.
If your house has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and 1,700 square feet (like every other house that’s selling in your neighborhood), then it’s worth $175,000 to $200,000…UNLESS it has a serious issue or is severely outdated. For these reasons, you might just need to drop your price.
What If You’re Upside-Down on Your House?
I see this quite a lot. People bought their house just a year or two ago and now if they sell it, they’re going to owe more than their equity will cover (especially when considering closing costs, taxes, and realtor fees). This is the main reason why they’re listing their house at $250,000 when every other house on the market is selling for $220,000.
Let me tell you, it doesn’t matter what you owe on your house. What matters is what people are willing to buy it for. That’s how you come up with the price. If you absolutely need to sell your house, you’ll need to drop the price and likely take out a personal loan to cover the difference.
Did you recently have to leave a house behind because a new job required you to move? Of all the options if you can’t sell your house, this is probably the one that’s the most forgotten, but if offered, is one of the easiest to put into action.
Simply explain your situation to your employer and ask if they offer any assistance to help you out. The worst they can say is no! If they agree to cover the difference between your home sale price and the mortgage balance, then you’re nearly home free (pun intended ;))! Just pretty up your house enough to spur some interest (and hopefully an offer), and you will no longer have to worry about selling your underwater house again.
6) Try to Flip the Negatives into Positives
When you bought your house, you somehow missed the fact that there was something majorly wrong with the appearance, the location, or the unique flair it had spattered throughout the house.
Is your home…
- So close to the airport, all you hear is planes taking off every 7 minutes?
- So tall that you get a neck-cramp if you try to look up at it for an extended period of time. Oh, and you scuff your bumper on the steep driveway every time you come and go?
- Spattered with dashes of orange (especially in the kitchen with those orange tinted cabinets) that you really liked when you bought the house, but it seems to be turning everyone else away?
Your house has a few negatives that are really hurting its value (and therefore, interest in the house).
One of your options if you can’t sell your home because of its negatives is to somehow spin them into positives:
- Airplane issue – “Great home for airplane enthusiasts or frequent travelers. Short drive to the airport.”
- Tall house issue – “Fantastic views from this high-altitude masterpiece.”
- Orange – “For all you Clemson* fans out there, this house is for you!” (*replace with orange sports team from your local area)
Nearly every negative can be flipped to a positive. By doing so, you might be limiting your customer base, but it might just be the targeted marketing technique needed to get the offer you were looking for!
7) Sell to a Cash Investor
So far, we’ve gone through six options if you can’t sell your house. If absolutely none of them work for your situation, then I suspect that your house might be run down and in need of some serious repair.
If you live in the California area, then you’re in luck. This #9 option might just bail you out of your jam…
Johnathon Case contacted me a couple months ago about his company and the services they offer – wondering if my readers would be interested. After a ton of back and forth and verification of their company’s track record, I decided that many of you could likely benefit from his offer.
His company/website name is “Sell My Old House“. Guess what they specialize in? 😉 Yup, that’s right – they buy your houses for cash, specifically in California.
If you have a run-down property that’s in need of renovation, but you simply can’t fund it…AND if you absolutely need to sell your house quickly, Johnathon is your guy. He’ll be transparent with his offer, you won’t be on the hook for anything, and if you tell him to shove off…he’ll do exactly that. His goal is to give you a fair price for your house while turning a profit himself to keep his business rolling.
This isn’t necessarily the optimal way to sell a house, but for some, this is their best option. If you see no other way to sell your house, check with Johnathon and get a quote through this link. You never know, his offer might surprise you!
Need some more options if you can’t sell your house? Maybe #1-7 just aren’t cutting it. Have you ever thought about renting it out instead?
Before you go there though, let’s touch base on the times when you probably shouldn’t rent out your house:
- You hate the idea of land-lording – If you’re nervous about land-lording before you even start, don’t do it. You’re probably not cut out for it and would probably get eaten alive.
- You’re going to live more than one hour away from the rental house – Long-distance land-lording is a recipe for disaster. If you’re moving out of town, please do yourself a favor and don’t rent out your old house. It’ll turn into a nightmare.
- If you really need to sell it in two years or less – People that rent your house will most likely chip the floors, put holes in your walls, and let their kids run wild with crayons and permanent markers… They’re going to devalue your house, so if you want to sell it anytime soon, it’s best to just leave it empty and keep working at selling it.
- You can’t cover your mortgage and the rental property mortgage – Chances are, you’re going to have a vacancy. If you can’t afford to cover the mortgage, you’re too broke to keep the property and rent it out.
If you were honest with yourself and didn’t relate to any of the reasons NOT to rent out your house, then let’s continue the conversation…
Ideally, once you decide to rent out your home, you’re committed to it for the long-haul – like between 10 years and forever.
So how do you rent out your house for top-dollar and find quality tenants? It’s really not that hard:
- Make each person pay $25 with their application. That way you know they’re serious and will likely qualify.
- Set a qualification that states the renters should net at least 3X the rental amount each month. Nobody needs renters that are strapped for cash every month.
- Keep your rent prices as high as possible. Make them too low and you’ll attract nothing but scumbags and schiesters.
- Run background and credit checks on everyone (the $25 fee you charged should cover about 2/3 of the this cost).
Want to learn more? Read my in-depth post, “How to Attract the Best Tenants For a Rental Property“.
9) Offer Your House on a Lease Option
If you don’t love the idea of renting your house out and it getting trashed, perhaps a better option would be leasing it out with the option to purchase. Your renters (excuse me…leasers) would pay a little extra since there’s a pre-determined purchase price written up in the contract, and they’d likely take care of your house because they’re hoping it might be theirs someday.
Also, the lease option would enable all those wanna-be buyers (that really don’t have enough of a down-payment yet) to actually get into one, call it their own, and buy it from you later (which is exactly what you want to happen – to sell your house!).
Plus, you can collect their payments all along the way. If they never end up buying the house, BONUS! You just got all those payments and you can still sell your house for full price.
10) Consider a Short Sale
Looking for options if you can’t sell your house? Then a short sale might just be your ticket…
Are you trying to sell your house because you’re strapped for cash and can’t afford your mortgage payments? AND is your house currently upside-down (meaning, you owe more than it’s worth)? A short sale might be your way to finally ditch your house and move on with your life.
What is a Short Sale?
So you’re trying to sell your house for $400,000 because that’s what you still owe on it… The only problem is, the current market value is $340,000, so no one in their right mind is even thinking about taking a look at it. You have no callers, no lookers, and therefore…no buyers.
This is where the short sale comes into play.
You can’t sell your house for what you owe and you don’t have the money to cover the difference, so one of your final options is to call the bank and ask them if they’d agree to a short sale.
- This basically means that you would put your house up for sale below the mortgage amount.
- When you get an offer, it will be up to the bank to accept or deny it.
- If they ultimately accept an offer, they often take the hit on the difference between the mortgage amount and the sale price. You’ll likely owe them nothing.
For them to agree to a short sale, you’ll need to have a pretty convincing case as to why it’s in their best interest to lose money on their investment. I assume the one that’s the most compelling is that you can’t afford to make the payments OR the maintenance on the property. If they don’t agree to the short sale, you’ll likely stay living there and willingly let it deteriorate and be worth far less in the future than it is today. In other words, the bank can allow you to sell your house for $340,000 today or they can wait a year when there’s a hole in the roof and sell it for $150,000, completely damaged and nearly beyond repair.
So why is this one of the better options if you can’t sell your house?
If you did nothing, your credit would take a HUGE hit. With this method, your record will show that you took action, worked with the banks, and did what was right in your given situation. Many future lenders will take this to heart when considering you for another home loan.
11) Walk Away and Let the Bank Take It
When I was entering the workforce as a young 20’s professional in 2008, I heard of people doing this all the time. They owed $300,000 on their house. Suddenly the market plummeted and it was only worth $250,000… They just lost $50,000 on their “investment” and didn’t want to make payments toward it anymore…so they just walked away.
Dumb, dumb, dumb. They’re probably still recovering from this mistake today.
If your situation is similar to my co-workers above, please don’t leave your house. You’ll regret it for sure. Just keep making your payments and try all the other options presented to you in this article.
BUT, if you lost your job, can’t make the payments, and absolutely no other option is working for you, then this might just be your only option… Give back the keys, move out, and let the bank foreclose on you.
What Foreclosure Means For Your Future
As you know – having a foreclosure on your report will absolutely trash your credit. Nobody can really say how much (because everyone’s situation is different and there are so many variables), but it will certainly be noticeable.
With a much lower credit score and a foreclosure on your record, if you ever want to buy a home in the future, you’ll…
- Need a very large down-payment (so the bank can be sure they don’t lose money on the deal this time),
- Likely get hit with a higher interest rate, and
- You won’t qualify for any conventional loans, so financing will be tricky at best.
Many people don’t realize it, but after the house sells during the foreclosure process, the banks may still serve you a deficiency judgement...which basically means they want you to pay the remaining money you owe them (the amount that the home sold for vs. what you still owed on the mortgage).
If the bank decides not to sue you over the balance on your mortgage, this amount gets reported to the IRS as “forgiven”, which in the IRS’s eyes….means “income”. It’s money that was essentially given to you, and they (of course) would like their tax money on your newfound “income”.
So, if you owed $400,000 on your house and it sold for $340,000 through the foreclosure process, you essentially just received $60,000 of income. If you land in the 22% tax bracket, you’ll suddenly owe the IRS $13,200. Since you didn’t have the money to pay for your mortgage…I’m guessing you don’t have $13k chilling in your savings account, which is yet another reason why this option should be avoided if at all possible.
There ARE Options If You Can’t Sell Your House…(which will you choose??)
So what are the best options if you can’t sell your house? Basically, the ones that cost the least amount of money and can net you the highest price. If I were you, I’d start working from the top of this list and work my way down…
- Fix up the look of your house with paint and better landscaping
- Hire a better, hungrier realtor
- Give your house a little break from the market and try again later
- Drop the price a bit to get some renewed interest
- Inquire about a relocation program at work
- Change your marketing tactics to turn the negatives of your house into positives
- Get a no-hassle, no-obligation cash offer
These are the best options in my book.
Beyond this, if you have to rent or lease your home in the interim, it’s an okay option, but understand that your house could get trashed and leave you in an even worse spot than you were in before you put it up for rent.
A short sale is a crappy options, but it’s the next best option. It will ding your credit some, but it’s better than the black-eye of a foreclosure (your last possible option).
You’ll Get Through This!
Purchasing a house can be a scary thing. Not being able to sell it can be a nightmare. But you know what? You’ve got a ton of options here and I bet you can find one of them that works for you. Soon, you’ll find that buyer, put some money in your pocket, and chalk this up to experience to make you a more seasoned, wiser home buyer next time.
Of all the above options if you can’t sell your house, which one do you think will work for you?
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.